Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preschool Halloween Party & Downtown Trick or Treating

Happy Halloween! We're looking forward to having all the grandparents and my brother over today. ER will once again be walking the neighborhood with a full entourage! She's had so many chances to get treats and wear her costume, she's going to start thinking we do this every weekend! Hope you all have a safe and trick free time! I'll be back to share pictures from Halloween, for now, here are some from the last of our pre-Halloween fun.

The first preschool party was last Thursday, and it was rather surreal being on the other side of classroom parties. Things are done very differently at our preschool then when in my kindergarten classroom. Which I think is nice, because I imagine they are a lot less stressful on the teacher.
At our coop, each parent signs up to be on party committees and they are responsible for planning and running it. This is also nice because, while the parents can use any of the supplies on hand, any additional ones they purchase. The teacher can really enjoy the party for once. I think, no I know, that I am too much of a control freak to let parents take completely over.
I think it's a good experience for parents to work in their child's classroom and help prepare for parties or work with small groups of kids. It's been a real eye opener for several of my parent volunteers over the years. Managing five eager kids at paint easels is no easy feat for anyone but just part of the daily routine for early childhood teachers.
We only stayed for the very start of the party at ER's preschool. I'm not on this committee, but we did hang around long enough to take the class picture and one of each student in his or her costume. They all came home with a cute light up egg carton spider and a jack o'lantern art project so it looks like they packed a lot into roughly two hours.

ER was Cinderella, as expected, but this time in a dress up costume she got from her Aunt and Uncle. The real costume would be too hard for her to hold up and use the bathroom in, which we've been doing much better with. At the end of class all the parents line up in the hallway with treats and the kids get a mini candy fix on the way out the door, very fun!
We also went trick or treating yesterday, even with the slight drizzle of rain coming down. This time we went to the large university town next to ours. The kids found many orange and black balloons along Main Street to stop by.The biggest surprise for us was that ER decided she wanted to go in her Snow White costume. Ah who?! Yes it was quite shocking at first but I think she just wanted to wear that red bow in her hair.
We went with friends of ours and while it was it was damp, we missed any outright downpours. Lunch with three kids was interesting but I think some mouthfuls of healthier fare made its way down their throats. We met up with them again for dinner and were joined by more friends for a casual family pizza night. Good friends, easy meal, occupied kids, and getting to talk to another adult for more than ten seconds was a great way to end the week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Play Date

Last Friday we got together at my friend Margaret's house and had a combined Halloween themed play date and a birthday party of her youngest daughter.
They painted terra cotta pots and made simple a simple jack-o-lantern craft. I love how they came out. Just paint each pot orange, mod podge on the face, and then seal everything with another thin layer of mod podge. I rolled up a bit of brown paper to make the stem, pushed it into the drainage hole in the pot and then attached a paper leaf to it.
Margaret planned a cute treat hunt. Each of the girls had to find their clue, I love how the girls helped her make them, and that directed them to their treat. It could easily be extended with more clues to find depending on how old your kids are. As it is, it took mine awhile to find both her clue and treat so it was the perfect lengh for her. Margaret knows the way to ER's heart is paved with marshmallows, so those ghost peeps were a big hit with her.
Instead of a birthday cake, each girl decorated two cupcakes with lots of frosting and sprinkles.
Happy 3rd birthday to one of our favorite sweet little friends! We had the best time playing with you and always have so much fun with you! We love you♥
I took the easy way out this year for the treat bags, and didn't actually make anything in them. We decided to buy one big sugary treat instead of a bunch of little one so each girl got a big lollipop and some other fun things. I made the bag with a larger plastic bag, topped with folded and stapled themed paper. Then I added a little phrase or Halloween word to the top along with a border strip, both cut from another sheet of thematic paper. Easy peasy, just what I need right now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simple Halloween Cards with Die Cuts

Premotherhood, I made a lot more cards. Now it's all I can do to keep up with our family scrapbooks! These were made for Halloween 2005, wow until I typed that I didn't realize how long it had been! That was the year I started making most of my greeting cards, and I loved using my Sizzix Sidekick machine to help me mass product cards. The ghost, tombstone, and BOO! are all from a set of four dies that are no longer produced.What I like about die cuts are that you don't have to worry about running out of a sticker or a letter, and any crafter knows that consumables get expensive! This way you can cut out as many as you need. Now a lot of crafters have computerized die cut systems, but once upon a time I was the envy of all my creative friends with my latest and greatest crafting tools!
The top version of this card is my favorite, but I came up with a couple of alternate versions to better use up the Halloween themed patterned paper I had. They were a lot of fun to make, and I wish I still had the time and energy to make holiday cards. The main reason I started sending cards for holidays throughout the year was to keep in touch with my older relatives who weren't email friendly. Now we live closer to most of them, and get to visit with them a lot more often. I don't feel too badly about not always sending cards throughout the year. I do still send cards and pictures to Brad's grandparents; that's fun because I can make one more elaborate card instead of needing fifteen!

Book Review: How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis

"Chef of the Year."(November 2007 Esquire)
"Best New Chef." (April 2008 Food and Wine)
"Chef of the Year." (October 2008 Bon Appetit)
"New York City goes Greek...but no-one does it as luminously as Michael Psilakis."
(August 2007 Gourmet)"

When you hear praise like that for a rising star in the food world, you just know his first cookbook is going to be a standout! I was looking forward with anticipation to getting my copy of How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis, self trained chef and owner of a growing empire of Mediterranean restaurants.

I've long dreams of visiting Greece and the Greek Isles but my fantasy's always went misty whenever I had to eat. I'll admit my experienced with Greek food has been rather limited to overly dressed salads with feta, olives, and beets in them. Not exactly traditional fare I'm sure, and nothing like the sophisticated Horiatiki Salata with sweet onion, paper-thin fennel, fire-roasted red bell peppers, and fresh herbs that Psilakis serves up.

Reading his cookbook introduced me to authentic Greek cuisine; just as I suspected it's heavy on the seafood. Even though I don't personally care for that, I still really enjoyed his introductions to the recipes:

"Here, the texture of the octopus is faced with the crispness of the apple and the fat of the salami. Then, this tartly acidic vinaigrette makes for an amazing juxtaposition on the palate. Salt, acid, sweet, fat. It's an evolution that happens in your mouth and then telegraphs it's message straight to the brain."

Maybe it's the teacher in me, but learning more about the how and why of cooking has always fascinated me. Gems like that and other tips and insight are sprinkled through out the book. They along with the personal narratives that open each of the ten chapters really let the reader share in the love and passion with which Psilakis cooks.

The 150 easy to prepare, satisfying to share, healthy, and varied recipes in How to Roast a Lamb still provide plenty of choices. The soups like Beef & Rice Meatballs in Egg Lemon Soup sound like they'd be particularily satisfying after a long day. I like how the books is broken into thematic related chapters such as Open Water, The Hunting Trip, and my two favorite chapters Psilakis Birthday Dinners and Kefi-Time to Dance. Stunning color photography of many recipes are throughout the book and make you ready to start planning your own family style Greek meals.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Hachette Book Group, Inc. for providing the reviewer's copy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ghosts of Halloween Pasts (and Present too)

ER was only 3 months old for her first Halloween so we did not put her in a costume. Instead, I dressed her up in the pumpkin hat my mom made for her along with the cute bib she'd gotten for ER. The picture above was the one we sent in our Halloween cards.
We also put her in a Halloween t-shirt when I took her the Halloween Festival at the school I used to work at. I guess if you count this sleeper as a costume, then she was a pumpkin for both her first and...
second Halloween. I know you've all seen pictures of ER o' Lantern from previous posts, but here is one more. This was the Halloween picture in our cards that year.
Last year she was a flower and I just loved this costume too! This was compromise over the uber expensive PBKids version. I love the striped stocking and little footsies slippers she got to wear with it. I wasn't really feeling Halloween this year at first, thinking I'd never find a costume I liked as much as her first two. But then...
we got this in the mail! I was going to do a seperate post to show you the pretty pictures I took of ER in this year's costume. We took them the same day as our Fall Family Pictures, but with Halloween this Saturday, I've ran out of time! Yikes where did the month go? Did Halloween sneak up on you too? So by now, most of you know that she's Cinderella from the Zoo Boo post.
Her Godmother Alicia sent her the really gorgeous dress, it's so detailed that I know never in a million zillion years could I make anything half as nice. It's a good thing Auntie Alicia spoils her so! She got it on Ebay of all places! ER has an official licensed Cinderella dress up outfit, but it's still too big and drags on the floor a bit. This one is sized perfectly!
The flower headband is from Grandma Norma, picked up at the Renaissance Festival. By coincidence it coordinates with the dress perfectly! Some of the long ribbons hanging from it match the dress exactly.
We took these so that Alicia, all the way in Arizona :( could see ER in the dress. I took a whole bunch of them, I love how they came out with the fall back drop! She's already gotten to wear it to four Halloween events and has three more to go. I just love it♥
This post is linked up to Wordful Wednesday at 7 Clown Circus, cause I need all the extra entries to win one of those black Flip Ultra HD camera's they're giving away!

Paper Plate Number Puzzles

Here's a quick activity that's easy to adapt for many different themes and content areas, paper plate puzzles. Start with paper plates, these are smaller dessert sized ones, and cut them in half to make the puzzle. When I made a set for my kindergarten class I used standard sized ones because I went all the way up to thirty and needed space to put all the stickers.Cut each plate in half, trying to make a different type of cut so that each plate puzzle is unique. It gets kind of hard when you're doing a lot but at least vary them a little. Write the numeral on one side and add stickers to represent that number on the other, very simple. ER helped me make ours and loved using all the stickers.

The faint black marks you see on the bottom of the side with the 4 on it above, are the self checking dots I drew on the back. The idea is that ER can check her work, and make sure she's got the right match by counting the black dots and seeing if they're the same as the other side with stickers on it. Of course, it would help if she knew the concept of same! She is so literal that because they don't look exactly the same, she didn't quite understand how they are the same because they both have four things on them. Ah a new concept to work on!
We only did up to number five, because our objective is for ER to start recognizing numerals. She can already consistently count aloud and represent with small objects to twelve. Because having to think about the numeral or written number, is something I haven't really concentrated on before it was quite a challenging task for her.
Paper plate puzzles are a great and inexpensive, translation: cheap, way to make manipulative activities for your students. As a beginning teacher I had several sets because I didn't have a lot of money to spend on fancy activity sets from teacher stores. Come to think of it I still don't!

Other ways to use them include: simple classification (ex. a set with things that go in the bathroom to match up, things that go in the kitchen, in the bedroom etc), colors, uppercase and lowercase letter match, word families (ex. pig on one side and wig on the other), simple math facts (addition problem on one side and answer on the other), and contractions (can't on one half and cannot on the other)
This is part of the Halloween Show & Tell linky post I am cohosting at my other blog, come on by and jump on board with your Halloween celebrations, costumes, or themed lessons!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Banner

Last year I decided to made this Halloween Banner completely out of materials I had in my scrapbooking stash. As you can see I had quite a lot of bits and pieces leftover from various sticker or embellishment sets, that I'd used in previous projects.
What tied the banner together was that the paper all came from a stack of glittery paper by Die Cuts with a View. A coordinating stack of paper is great way to save money in the long run because each piece of paper ends up being significantly less than it would be if purchased individually.The banner pendants are all made out of chipboard that I hand cut out, covered with paper, and then hole punched.
The circle letters are also made out of chipboard by Making Memories. It's actually the negative part of the letter that I used, so fun to get twice the amount of use out of a supply! I coated each with a thin layer of, what else, mod podge! Then I sprinkled glitter by Doodlebug Designs on each one.
The embellishments are from all brands like Jolee's Boutique, Papyrus, Making Memories, Heidi Grace Designs, and even little felt ghosts I die cut. You may recognize some similar ones from the Our Pumpkin frame and the Stand Up Mini Book I've already shared. So don't forget to shop your stash when starting a project!
I've linked this post the Creepy, Crawly, Crafts post on Mayhem and Moxie because I REALLY want to find a Flip Ultra HD Video Camera under the tree at Christmas time☺

UPrinting Postcard Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered! I'm pleased to announce that my winners from the latest UPrinting sponsored giveaway are:

Comment #3, Tara said...I posted your button on my blog.


Comment # 22 kbloems27 said...I have your button on my blog!

Congratulations Ladies! I have emailed both winners and need to hear back from them by midnight tonight!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Fun Filled Fall Day

Yesterday we finally got out to get our carving pumpkin. It's the third year we've gone to the pumpkin patch that's so close, we drive by it on a daily basis. It's nice to know we're supporting a local farmer in our community.
We've had a lot of rain lately so it was a bit muddy, but we still enjoyed our walk out to the pumpkin patch. Lots of really big ones were scattered everywhere.As much as we liked the ride, we still took the hay ride back. On our way to the car we even ran into some of our friends, so it was nice to chat a few moments with them. But we had to get going soon, we had a busy day with lots to do still ahead of us. We met up with our friends and went trick-or-treating at the stores downtown. Everyone was thrilled to have a nice sunny day to enjoy. It's so nice to go in the daytime, when you can see everyone's costumes and see where you're going! Since it was one of the first nice days we've had in awhile, it was really crowded and some places ran out of treat early, but all the girls still ended up with lots of candy.
But one of the biggest treats for ER wasn't something sweet to eat. She got to get her nails painted at one of the salons. This was big stuff for a three year old and very exciting!
They also were doing face painting at the same salon. Nail polish and glittery flowers for her face, what more is there? How about a few games to play? ER actually got a mini pumpkin through one of the holes this time. It sure helped being extra close to the target☺
After an hour and half of trick-or-treating we all went back to Margaret and Eric's and then the Dads gave the Moms a treat by watching the girls for us. We escaped for a short shopping trip before meeting up for pizza. Whew that was a lot to fit into one day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween 2007 Shutterfly Photobook

For today's Scrapbook Sunday, I wanted to share an easy and quick way to scrap a season's worth of pictures. Using an online service like Shutterfly is a great way to digital scrapbook without having to invest in an expensive program. What I like about them, is that you can get a scrapbook feel to your photobook and are not limited to a very basic background.

Back in fall 2007, we had just moved back to near our families. The house wasn't quite put back together and we were all adjusting to our new home. My scrapbooking supplies weren't completely unpacked or organized. But we did throw ourselves whole heartedly into doing all the traditional Midwestern fall activities I grew up doing. It was the first year we did any kind of Halloween activities with ER, so it's a very special one for us.

Since I am quite the shutterbug, by the end of October I literally had hundreds of pictures. We had done so many fun outings and I had lots of memories I wanted to preserve. The thought of scrapbooking them all was overwhelming.

So I got them organized, added journaling, and created my photobook all in one afternoon. I like having everything together in one professionally bound book. We look at it all the time. For this book I used layouts and backgrounds that Shutterfly provided. Now that I've got a little experience with PS Elements and am building up my collection of digital kits, I can't wait to one day create a whole book just out of my digital layouts.

I've gotten photobooks from four different providers and the ones from Shutterfly continue to be my favorites. I think they have the best tools, variety of premade done layouts and backgrounds, and they frequently run specials. When I consider how much I spend on scrapbook materials, a photobook from them is a great value. I'll create a photobook, and then keep it in my saved projects until they run a sale to save money. Plus Shutterfly is free to join, you can store and organize your pictures there, and easily share them with family and friends. I have a Share Site and it's an easy way to share pictures with a lot of people at once.

Click here to view this photo book.

Book Review: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder by Rebecca Wells

In The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder, bestselling author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisters Rebecca Wells, introduces us to a whole new cast of Southern characters. A stirring and emotional novel, it follows the title character, Calla Lily Ponder's life from childhood through adulthood and into her late twenties. It is a life begun enveloped in the love and protection of her mother, known as M'dear.

M'dear was born to be a hair dresser; owns her own salon where she ministers to her customer through her healing touch. Their's is a strong mother daughter bond, one that is tragically broken as Calla Lily enters her teenage years. Surrounded by many loving extended family and friends who are as close as family, she gradually makes terms with her mother's death but as I expect is the case with many who've lost a loved one the void is never gone.

Another pivotable moment in Calla Lily's life comes when her childhood love breaks her heart, alone she begins life anew in the big city, in her case New Orleans. It's where she comes into her own and learns that love can come back into ones life. Then tragedy strikes again. Only returning to where she grew up, the small fictional river town of La Luna, can healing come and life come full circle. It's where she learns that second chances can happen.

Here more about the book from Rebecca Wells, in the video below:

I found The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder a story that brought up many issues that I struggle with. It was very hard to read about M'dear's death, because one of my biggest fears is that I will die when my daughter is young. That she won't have me to guide, support, and love her when she faces life's difficulties. I think it's a fear many parents share with me, made all the more omnipresent in my life because I do have some serious health conditions to contend with.

This was definitely a tear jerker for nearly the whole time. But at the same time, it was comforting to find that Calla Lily perseveres through all the tragedies in her life. That in the end, there can be a new beginning and the possibility of a happy ending. It was a satisfying read, and one that once I began I quickly got absorbed into. Browse inside the book, and read the first six chapers online and meet Calla Lily for yourself.

Disclaimer: Thank you to HarperCollinsPublishers for the reviewer's copy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Zoo Boo

A week ago we spent a very chilly night at the Zoo Boo! Despite the cold temperatures, we did have a lot of fun. It's a good thing we had the first time slot, so at least the beginning was in the daylight and a little warmer. It also helps that we can put tights and jeans on ER underneath her long princess dress but she still wore a coat most of the time.
We met the grandparents and Uncle Dave for dinner beforehand, well at least that was the plan. They evidently couldn't wait the ten minutes extra it took us to get there and ordered their meals at Panera before we arrived. I even got a call asking us where we were BEFORE the time we were all supposed to met. Yes we're the ones driving an hour and we do have a three year old, I can see why four adults just couldn't wait...not that I'm still annoyed or anything. I love having a family dinner where everyone else is done already. I mean what's the point, I was seriously 95% ready to sit at another table. We won't be doing that again, next time we'll just meet wherever we're going. Okay, crabby time is over.
ER was all ready to go trick or treating at the zoo. It was the first time she got to officially wear her costume and she was so excited. This year we didn't even have to remind her what trick or treating was all about. At each treat station, she called out quite loudly, which was amusing.

We went to the Zoo Boo two years ago and thought that compared to another event held in our area it was kind of lame. But it's also half the price. However, they've made it longer and more elaborate now so it was a much better event and well worth the six dollar ticket price.

The downside was that it was really packed and a couple of times very congested. They need to work on their organization, one treat station clearly wasn't ready on time and there was a long hold up and not enough zoo personel working to keep things moving along. Plus my foot got run over by a wagon three times. The person pulling it clearly knew they had run over me, two of them even looked back at me, but did anyone apologize or say excuse me? No, sheesh what's the matter with people these days?!
Another thing that was different was that we actually went into the reptile and the amphibian exhibits, so there were two times when we could get in from the cold and actually see some animals. Previously, "animal" sightings were limited to the displays they have set up along the trick or treat path, like these with pumpkin and gourd elephants. It seemed like they had more this year and that some, like the farm one were much more elaborate. They are fun to see and ER liked them.

Besides the twelve or so treat stands, the hay maze we played in at the Fall Festival was still set up, and there is a fun stage show too. Instead of hay bales to sit on, there were folding chairs. The difference didn't matter to ER, cause she watched the show on the ground, peeking between the chairs. The characters scared her a little.
We were there about two hours and afterward we went to Grandma Norma's for some pie and to visit more. It was a fun evening out.
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